The Beautiful Nazi Beast Warden of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp Was Famous for Her Brutality

By Shannon Quinn

Most rebellious teenage girls who rebel against their parents will do relatively harmless things like skipping class, date questionable boyfriends, or maybe even smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol with their friends. But in the wake of Germany’s Third Reich, a troubled young woman named Irma Grese decided that she was going to join the Nazi party. During her time working for the Nazis, she was sent to multiple concentration camps. Belsen beat and tortured prisoners within an inch of their lives, and allowed thousands of innocent women to die on her watch. During her final days, she was labeled as one of the most evil SS Officers in all of World War II, and she was one of 45 people to answer for her crimes at the Belsen Trial. But for years, her reputation precedes her as “The Beautiful Beast”.

Irma Grese, “The Beautiful Beast”. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Childhood trauma lead Irma Grese to dropout of school and join the Nazi party.

As a girl, Irma Grese grew up with 4 other siblings. Her father was a milkman, and he lived up to every single bad joke and cliche, because he had an affair with the pub owner’s daughter. He abandoned his wife and children in order to be with his new lover. Irma, her mother, and siblings were all left in poverty without any ounce of support. When the rest of the town found out about the milk man’s affair, Irma was bullied mercilessly in school, and she was mocked and beaten up by other kids.

Irma dropped out of High School as soon as she was old enough, so that she could escape the daily torture. She wanted to escape the reputation of her parents, and start a new life of her own. Since she had no one to support her, she had to find a job. At first, she wanted to become a nurse to help aid German soldiers, but the fact that she left her education early meant that she could not possibly qualify for a medical job, and failed most of the written exams. She began working on a farm, and also worked in a local shop to earn some pocket money.

Irma’s mother could not survive any longer with the bad luck life had given her, so she opted to commit suicide. All of her teenaged children to fend for themselves, so Irma joined the Hitler Youth, because it promised her a place to stay and food to eat. She became an official part of the Nazi Party just one year later, at 19 years old. In a way, this may have been her one and only choice to make, considering the circumstances she was born into. Under Nazi Germany, the Hitler Youth normally recruited 10-year old boys when they were in school, and anyone who was already a teenager after the start of the war did not have to join if they did not want to. But the organization was seen as a sort of brotherhood that helped one another, and Grese probably saw a lot of potential in that as a surrogate family that would take care of her.

Irma Grese with her fellow S.S. Officers in Bergen-Belsen. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As a woman, Irma Grese could have stuck with working a desk job, if all she wanted was survival. But the Nazis allowed Irma to channel all of her rage by terrorizing Jewish people as an outlet to her pain. They gave her a job at the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp to see what kind of skills she had. She began to rise in the ranks very quickly, because she was showing her willingness to learn about all aspects of running a camp.

Irma Grese arrived to work in Auschwitz in March of 1943. She started out as the secretary for her block leader, and mostly just answered the phones. She let the higher-ups know that she had bigger ambitions than being just a secretary, so was put in charge of the Punishment Party for two days. Her job was to monitor the Jewish prisoners as they went on “parade”. There were two purposes for these parades. When prisoners first arrived at the camp, they were made to run, and anyone who fell during the run was chosen to be executed, because they were too physically weak. The second purpose of a parade was to strip them naked and herd them into the gas chambers. If any of the prisoners tried to run away, officers like Irma Grese would pull her revolver on them, and beat them with a whip to get them to go back in line. Even though she had never done something like this before in her life, she was channeling all of her hate into these Jewish people, and assisted in their deaths without remorse. The Nazis were shocked, and quite impressed, and they knew that they had a promising young S.S. Officer on their hands.